Hook, Line, and Sinker

"Never underestimate the tendency to sacrifice oneself for a loved one. It can shave a good 30% off your ammunition count."

Colonel Horth Kargelian, the ``Butcher of Eremov,'' 2460.03 AS

Nurl -> Gateway -> Riden

The Hippocrates heads off to Gateway from Nurl, and the Dancer heads there from Riden, where people have been talking to Shaddam. The party joins up in-system, and heads towards the battlestation. Hippocrates provides a general briefing about the goals of Getting Kidnapped:
OBJECTIVE: Get information leading to the recovery of all of the AIs, including Hippocrates. Do this by: NOT-AI-RELATED OBJECTIVES: SOME ASSETS: SOME PROBLEMS:
Katya and Ruehan point out that they can read minds of conscious people, and read memories of unconscious people, so unless the groupmind members get knocked out, they won't be able to get deep background.

The current understanding of the groupmind nanites is that, compared to the initial encounter with them, they're much less easily contagious, but also much more resistant to isolation from others.

Gateway Station is getting pretty crowded - the crew is asked if they want a station berth or a parking orbit. They pick the former. Max contemplates setting up a full station scan to be triggered on a button press, but he realizes that that will keep the scanners from being used by anyone else or for other things in the meantime, so he postpones doing that.

Two of the omnicorders are set up on the ship, one to scan for the groupmind nanite transmissions, the other to scan for sneaking people. Unfortunately, while Talia is on board, the latter keeps going off, even when she's not trying to be sneaky - when she is trying to be sneaky, she can (barely) hide from the detector, but then it starts giving odd readings. First Frost of Autumn also gets assigned to watch for people sneaking around the ship.

The airlock buzzes, with two security-types there. Ciernan and Ruehan head down to answer while everyone else tries to decide what to do if it's kidnappers. It doesn't seem to be kidnappers - it's a Red military guard, and a guy in a private security uniform. He introduces himself as being from Securitek Quality Security Company; they're offering a conference special, 300 asters to guarantee the security of their berth. If there's any intrusion, they'll get their money back and triple damages. Everyone makes "ka-ching!" noises, sure that they can profit from this foolishness. The Red guard rolls his eyes a little, and assures them that standard security is in place.

Ciernan tells the Securitek guy that he'll have to talk to the captain, and asks for details. The basic fee is just for berth security, but they can of course put men on board or otherwise install additional security, for an additional fee. Max thinks that these are the guys that the Mafia would want to hire - they're highly regarded "in some circles" for their competence and skill. Ace agrees - they cater towards a clientele who don't mind so much if the response to intruders is occasionally accidentally lethal. And if you ask them to install illegal security, they'll do it for a surcharge. This "guaranteed" thing is new, though.

A bit of an argument ensues - is Securitek likely to be infiltrated by the group mind? Should the party get the guarantee, so they can turn a quick profit when Hippocrates is kidnapped? Does Securitek do data security? (Not so much). Katya suggests that if they want to make sure the groupmind has to invade the ship, that the Hippocrates bot should stay on the ship. Hippocrates isn't keen on having to stay on the ship for safety, and the irony is thick. Ruehan is a little confused how hard they should be trying to stop Hippocrates from getting grabbed. Akito, who has already had this sorted out for him, explains: "Make it look good. But don't make it look that good."

Meanwhile, Murdoch, who has received a message from Hippocrates asking to hire him, has arrived on Gateway Station, and also taken a berth for his ship. He receives the same security offer, and warns Securitek that if they're trying to run a protection racket on him, he'll kill them. The Red military guy smirks a little.

Ciernan points out that the actual Securitek guy outside is just selling security, but someone else somewhere is "collecting blood samples" (i.e. getting points for their plot). Hmm.

Hippocrates' eidetic memory reminds him to go meet with Murdoch at a station bar. Everyone finally disembarks, and hears the enthusiastic shouts of Elmer TRICONIAN nearby, who is getting the full security suite. Elmer is pleased to see the crew of the Noble Hippocrates again, and congratulates them on organizing, er, coming to, the conference.

Ace convinces Elmer to include the Hippocrates in the security that he's paying for - he sprung for the whole thing, with people on the Elmer's Gold and in space suits and everything. Unfortunately, he's been distracted by the appearance of the Hippocrates crew and hasn't actually signed the contract yet.

"It's just money." -Ace
"I mind ream him. Who is that?" -Ruehan, (pointing at Ace)
"I poke him. Is he real?" -Akito
The party troops to the bar, and then splits up - several people meet Murdoch, while everyone else tries to blend in and pretend they're not with the rest of the group. Murdoch is not fooled, thinking that it might have worked better had they not all come in together. Hippocrates gives Murdoch the hard drive with all the Hippocrates-data, and then after he flips, wonders whether the group mind has already hired him. Well, now he has no idea. Though presumably if he were on an active contract he wouldn't have come to meet Hippocrates. Everyone heads back to the ship, and Murdoch gets a headset.

Ciernan goes to meet the Spartans. There he meets up with Sam, Binder of Lightnings, who tell him that the Spartans mostly want strong representation in the unified military command of the Outworlds, should the vote to create one pass. After all, Skald training should qualify one somewhere around Colonel rank, right? He's also got some things he's working on himself, but he can handle those if Ciernan can help out with the military stuff.

Ruehan goes to meet the Vertaki delegation. DaVira briefs Ruehan that there's going to be a vote on making the military structures put in place for the Decider emergency permanent. Of course, Pierogi is not at all in favor of getting their fleet all entangled up with the other fleets and not always under their direct command. She supposes if it must happen, it'll be OK, as long as Vertaki get high ranks, but really, unification is junk. She'd also like control over the Pierogi jumpgate, rather than letting Parliament have it, but Ruehan assures her she needn't worry about that.

Hippocrates briefs Murdoch on the idea to recreate Acheron, which would create an AI which was more competent and less ethical than "normal" AIs like Hippocrates. Thus, Hippocrates' plan is to let himself get kidnapped too, while extracting information from the kidnappers in the process. Murdoch is kind of dubious about this being the best of plans, but then, so is everyone else.

Since this isn't actually saving the world (Acheron being potentially dangerous notwithstanding), Murdoch offers them the rate of 250 asters a day, with a retainer of 50 a day to just hang out, if things take a while to happen.

The airlock buzzes again, and Ciernan answers. It's a messenger from Diplomatic Affairs looking for Captain Hippocrates: how many invitations does he want for the ball tomorrow? Hippocrates says fifteen, overestimating wildly. The messenger looks a little taken aback.

"If there's any trouble with that, have Ryan Waites call me." -Ciernan
"Sir, yes, sir." -Messenger
Hippocrates mentions privately to Murdoch that he also has a secondary objective - he's concerned about Mirris, and he'd like Murdoch to help keep her from getting self-destructive and panicky once he's kidnapped. Not that she's around right now.

Ciernan and Ruehan briefly mention some of the things that their delegations mentioned to them - the Spartans want to make sure that Skald training counts as military rank, and the Vertaki are concerned about the command structure of any overall Outworlds fleet. In addition to the military part of the conference, there's other meetings about the Decider worlds, jump gates, and so on.

On the way back to the ship, Ace gets intercepted by Marcia. She briefs him on what's been going on on the station lately. Klothos is quite nervous about the conference, as she seems to have this instinctive sense that there's a hammer coming, but she can't figure out who's swinging it. Also, the station seems covered with mooks/goons/what have you. They're all here "legitimately" with various delegations and the like, but there's far too many of them. Plus, when that happens you expect a bunch of bar fights and other such disturbances, but it's been dead quiet. Pretty much everyone except the delegates are totally on edge and sure of some coming disaster.

Max suggests a shopping trip to get good clothes for the party. In addition to being flush with money, he's channeling something of a playboy partygoer, so he definitely wants to look good. Murdoch looks through the Hippocrates records on pictures of the group mind members, though they've no doubt changed membership some since then.

Ace power projects a bunch of fortune at Katya, trying to make her very Important for the party. She promptly shoots to the top of Max's list as best-looking woman at the party, pretty much no matter who else shows up. Murdoch prepares a couple of bags of guns to be checked at the door, and Max pockets a couple of the guns for later reality-teleporting in.

Eon (one of Elmer's shield generators) calls for Ruthie. There is much saying of "hi" to each other until Akito stops listening, and then Eon sees if Ruthie wants to go to the dance. This provokes some sadness in Linnet and Ella, but people with child-handling skills don't think that having them go by themselves would make them happier. Linnet asks if she can go over to Elmer's ship; the grownups decide that that's too dangerous, but Ella and Elmer's captain can come over and watch TV on the Hippocrates instead.

People contemplate disguising themselves as Dr. Kye to meet Klothos at the party, but nobody is quite so daring.

The night before the party, Ciernan gets in touch with Ryan Waites, to go out drinking. Kayta asks Ciernan to try and get the names of the frat boys in the car crash (back in Punch Bowl) from Waites; and Waites agrees to get them, and tries to find out if Ciernan knows what's up with Securitek. Ace also hits the station bars to see what people are talking about: there's just too much security - people are nervous about what it all means. But there haven't been bar fights. And Klothos herself is said to be nervous.

Ace goes to check out the scanner at the party location, and plans to smuggle a small weapon in through security in his hand.

Murdoch gets a prioritized list from Hippocrates for who should be kept alive, if it comes to that. Katya is at the top. Ace writes up a bunch of flirtatious notes, and also instructions, that he can give to Marcie if it seems appropriate.

Ruthie worries to Katya that she doesn't have anything to wear to the party. A second shopping trip ensues, in which Ruthie, Katya, Max and Ace go shopping for fancy party clothes. Max spends extra on Katya's, to make sure it's perfect.

At Akito's request, Ruthie and Linnet come up with code phrases for the party to use:

X has nice shoes Get X!
Time for chocolate pudding! Run away!
Time for apple cranberry pie! Abandon Hippocrates!
I wonder where X was earlier? X is a criminal mastermind
I'm going to get a cookie Read the mind of the person I'm looking at.
Murdoch wants to know what if the person really does have nice shoes, but Ruthie thinks he's being difficult.

Hippocrates gives a last reminder - Katya is going to ask for law enforcement powers from Viktor, so make sure to make that public and visible. There's some fussing about exactly how that'll be made public, but Ruehan thinks there's enough reporters on the station that it should be easily leaked.

Akito talks to Talia about sneaking to the party to keep an eye on things, and shortly thereafter, Max notices that the omnicorder isn't worrying about stealthy people nearby any longer. Dylanna, on the other hand, is instructed to come to the party and be useful.

The party begins! In addition to the Hippocrates crew (including Ruthie), the notable partygoers include: Pica Friedling; Armand DeGaulle; Marcia; Grandmother Janice; Ghier; Davira; Colonel Tigh (the XO of Bastion Nav Control); Sam, Binder of Lightnings; Ryan Waites, the First Consort, and three other consorts; Eon; and Elmer TRICONIAN. Neither Viktor nor Klothos is in evidence, and the First Consort is seated on the Throne where Klothos was at the last party.

As people enter, Eon and Ruthie are deemed Incredibly Cute by everyone else, and start out with the most urbanity. Max escorts Katya in, leaving Ace to escort Cassandra in.

People begin to circulate - the crew, now slightly familiar with the mechanic, has thrown all their resources onto moving quickly, so they're pretty effective. Ruehan and Akito fetch food and drink for people, while Ciernan and Murdoch chat with some of the other partygoers; Ciernan pins down Grandmother Janice as one of the Fernwash grandmothers.

Murdoch and Akito shmooze with Ryan Waites. Katya dances with one of the consorts, and Ace dances with Cassandra. Deirdre and Colonel Tigh dance, mostly for tactical purposes, so Deirdre can stay closer to Katya. Marcia flirts with Murdoch, and Davira begins to stalk Ace ("Where is my yummy snack?")

Max successfully cuts in on the dance, stealing Katya from the consort. Waites chats with Hippocrates about why the conference is here in particular, but Hippocrates parries smoothly - well, why not the most important place in the Linked Worlds?

Ace gets bounced around a bit, as Davira cuts in to steal Ace from Cassandra, leaving her to trip helplessly near a consort, so he has to assist her off the dance floor with no excess gaucheness. Hippocrates promptly cuts in, stealing Davira from Ace.

Katya and Max flirt with each other, which does not escape Ace's attention. Ruehan and Murdoch notice that their headsets fall off the party network as they talk to Sam.

By the party midgame, several people have enough urbanity to cash in some for favors. One of the uninteresting guests ('noobs') slips a note into Murdoch's pocket, but he's in the middle of talking to Sam and has food and drink in his hands, so he doesn't have a chance to read it before a second noob slips a second note into the same pocket.

Then it's "Ladies' Choice" and various women get to yoink their choice of men to the dance floor.

Davira takes advantage of the dance to set up a meeting with Ace - dinner tomorrow evening.

Murdoch finally manages to read his notes:

"Boss, I thought you weren't supposed to be on the op, should we abort?"
"Everything's fine for the hit, what's the problem?"
Sadly, he doesn't know which note came from which guy, not that it seems to matter. The noobs are pretty indistinguisable.

The flirting continues, as people notice that it's the fast track to urbanity. Max successfully flirts with Cassandra, and presents her with one of the feather cloaks that a previous ghost had created, while Ruehan and Waites continue to ponder the significance of the Too Much Security. Neither of the two is willing to concede knowing anything first.

Then, it's Mood Lighting, which allows gentlemen to yoink ladies to various secluded corners of the room.

All the remaining gentlemen without partners lose urbanity. More flirting ensues. Max is quite impressive at his flirting with Cassandra, and the consort with Katya isn't bad. Cassandra suggests that she and Max leave the party, but he thinks they need to stick around.

Akito begins to ask Ghier about the ritual, but then suddenly realizes that his little sister is off in a dark corner with a boy. (Not that they're any good at flirting, as it turns out). Akito dashes off for the corner, and tells the kids that it's Time To Go.

Ciernan turns in some of his points on a short answer from Grandmother Janice about the Deciders. As he knows, there's the Decider subcommittee at the conference; the Grandmothers think there's no need to go chasing them down officially, as the Grandmothers can handle any unofficial contact.

Hippocrates decides it's time to put Murdoch on the clock, as opposed to just hanging out, to try and figure out what's up with the guys passing him notes. Ace continues to flirt with Katya, until she caves and suggests that they get out of the party and go somewhere more private. Ace can't say no, of course...

"I'm going off the clock now..." -Ace
"WHAT?" -Akito
Murdoch starts cruising around to various noobs, telling them to abort their plan, or, alternately, that they're benched: get out, get safe, and report back.
"Akito is seriously considering complimenting Ace's shoes right now." -Akito
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Redemption is different than cooties. I know all about it." -Andrea
Ace and Katya start to head back to the ship, but Ace is a little worried that they haven't spent all their urbanity yet, and they don't quite get out the door. Dylanna decides to try to nip this in the bud on Jim's behalf, and flirts with Ace, but he throws his fortune in on getting to ignore her.

"Ace, there are two strike teams in this room and I'm about to get kidnapped. You are not off the clock." -Hippocrates
Ace, grumpy, spends some urbanity to ask a noob what his mission is. It's kidnapping Elmer TRICONIAN, though he's now confused as to whether it's supposed to be storming the ship or at the party. He was sure the plan was the ship, but now he's confused. Ciernan thinks they must be a distraction for the real op.

Hippocrates tells Murdoch to try and trigger the strike teams, which should end the party, so everyone should spend any urbanity that they have left. Katya sulks that she still isn't leaving with Ace.

"Maybe Max could come back and save me. Max is cute!" -Andrea
"Augh!" -Pete
Sam starts heading somewhere to cash in his last bit of urbanity - Ciernan helps him by giving him an extra move. Everyone starts burning their extra moves to get final favors, suspecting the imminent End Of Party. Murdoch shouts "Go! Go! Go!" to all the noobs who theoretically work for him, and many of them start running - mostly for the door. Hmm.

Finally, it's the stroke of midnight, and everyone loses five urbanity. The party ends. Ciernan is pleased: he does not end a party with negative urbanity. Katya is no longer interested in leaving with Ace, and Ace sulks that he's going to get Hippocrates, who didn't get kidnapped at all.

Everyone goes back to the ship. The final favors owed included:

So, nobody actually tried to kidnap Elmer, or kill anyone else, at the party. Very confusing. But people should be warned, nevertheless. Hippocrates sends off a warning to Admiral DeGaulle that there are two strike teams on the station, one planning to kidnap Triconian and one planning to hit someone as yet unknown. DeGaulle isn't pleased to hear this, but says he'll get more security in.

Murdoch gets a list of conference attendees; he thinks that the "noobs" were, in general, low-level thugs. Some work for Securitek, others were security for some of the attendees, and so on. Which means that some of the guys Elmer has hired to protect his ship probably actually want to kidnap him. Lovely. Hippocrates warns Elmer about this. "Hmm. I better pay them more," Elmer thinks, and says he'll put the captain on it. Hippocrates suggests that they all come over for the night to the Hippocrates, for safety in numbers. It's a sleepover!

The next morning, the conference begins. Somewhat simplified due to lateness, there are four meetings, each with two resolutions being argued.

Military Command (Pica, Davira, DeGaulle, Viktor)
  • All outworlds military should be integrated into one command structure...
  • Which should be run by the Crux Defender party.
Jumpgates (Tigh, Klothos)
  • A system invaded by Deciders should be cut off.
  • The Crux Parliament (which obviously controls the jumpgates) should give the ability to open jumpgates to each system, not hog it all.
Decider Strategy (Janice, Ghier, Marina)
  • There should be a concerted effort to find the Deciders...
  • ...and smite them!
Technology (Sam, Elmer, Waites)
  • All Redliner technology should be shared.
  • All Greenliner development should be illegal, and greenliner defenses shared.
"Team Hippocrates" also gets one vote in one meeting. Ciernan is a little puzzled by why Sam is trying to not make Greenliners illegal - Sam explains that Decider technology doesn't seem to go wonky from his powers, so he's very interested in all of it. The group plans what favors to burn (as do the NPCs) to try and make things come out the way they want.

A messenger arrives at the airlock again, and everyone troops down. It's a delivery guy. Katya mind-reams him, and he is in fact just a delivery guy. Ace's "time to go" indicates that now is when things are starting to get bad, but it's not actually time to go anywhere.

There's a letter, and a data crystal.

Dear Hippocrates:

You have ten minutes to report to <a room on the station> alone. If you do not comply then the contents of this data crystal will be forwarded to the child services bureaus of all planets. We guarantee your safety at the meeting, and your ability to leave afterwards if you so choose.

Data crystal contents:
Many photos and recordings are on this data crystal, apparently taken by Hippocrates' cameras.
Each documents Linnet in some sort of danger or distress, and is carefully
supported by legal documents and expert-witness testimony indicating that this is
seriously dangerous to the development of a child. It's pretty convincing. These include:
Ace disguises himself as Hippocrates, and says he should get to go to the meeting instead. Hippocrates says that no matter how good the disguise is, Ace is not a robot and thus is unlikely to fool them. Murdoch warns Hippocrates (via an encrypted email) that they've clearly accessed his cameras, so they must know about his intentional-kidnapping plan.

The conferences are also about to begin, while the secret meeting room is in a part of the station that's normally off-limits. Well, that's a problem. Max puts a bug and a tracking device on Hippocrates. Murdoch, who has memorized the Vircus battlestation, says that the room in question is one of the primary weapons room.

Most of the group heads towards the Secret Area, so as not to miss the deadline. Max is nobody's problem, and Ace is generally sneaky. Talia is nowhere to be seen.

Katya intuits the question of whether Mirris is a sleeper agent working for the Criminal Mastermind. Nope, she's not. Hippocrates gives someone a data crystal to make sure to get to DeGaulle, and asks Linnet, Ruthie, and Dylanna what they think about the whole thing. (Murdoch suspects the project of being Girl-Scout-level organized). Dylanna thinks Hippocrates' system was hacked, but can't provide any more insight without more data.

Hippocrates routes a priority call through to DeGaulle. When he gets pulled out of the meeting, Hippocrates says he's being directed to a room in the forbidden section of the station - where is Klothos? She could be in on it. DeGaulle says she's in the conference room next door to himself, and offers to flood the forbidden section with security and shut it down. Hippocrates demurs. DeGaulle really doesn't think Klothos is in on it.

Ace tries to sneak into that section independently. The first thing he spots en route is lots of goons, in two sets. One is heading towards the conference, the other towards Elmer's slip. Murdoch gets detailed to deal with this, while Ciernan runs for the conference to guard whoever it is they're trying to take out. Katya mind-scans them, and thinks it's just "take out the high-ranking people at the conference." Everyone besides Murdoch and Ciernan keeps following Hippocrates. Murdoch manages to grab some of the mooks heading towards Elmer's ship, telling them that the plan has changed, and he leads them back to the conference, while Ciernan and DeGaulle summon more military security.

At the entrance to the "forbidden zone", two of Klothos's guards are down and unconscious. Hmm. Okay, maybe Klothos isn't in on it - or maybe she's just extra-clever.

With about a minute left, Ace stealths into the room. There's a big red X on the floor, and a bunch of cameras and scanners, plus things like torpedo launching tubes and laser cannons. Ace hides in a camera's blind spot, Max pretends to be not anyone's problem, and Talia is probably around somewhere. Hippocrates steps onto the X.

A black silhouette appears on the screen, and says there are two things. First, he's cutting it a bit close, isn't he? Second, he said alone! Alone, or they publish the first set before even discussing the second set. However, from the diagram of the room, it appears that they've only actually noticed Max (who isn't so invisible to machines). Max steps out.

Hippocrates gets the next instruction - get in that torpedo tube there, and they won't publish the contents of the second data crystal, the one at his feet. Hippocrates asks what's on it, and the screen helpfully displays:

High-quality sensor and camera logs apparently taken from the Bowl installation on Gateway. These
indicate fairly clearly the exact time in the ritual that Mirris is turned, and the subsequent confusion
due to amnesia that causes two ritual failures to happen. Additionally, recordings of the party
discussion at the Bowl in which people realize that Mirris was up to something Bad, and Ciernan
elemental-blasts her out of the bowl and asks if she should be killed for safety. All the recordings have
neat and precise timestamps indicating exactly when everything happens, and that two failures in particular were
caused by Mirris's sabotage. That part of the data crystal takes up only a fraction of the total size; the rest is a
listing, planet by planet, and city by city, of all the people who died at that exact time. Taken together, this could be
used to prosecute Mirris for fully half of the deaths in the Flames, thousands to millions of counts of murder on
each planet. Even if it would not be possible to actually convict her on each planet, given that people want
someone to *blame* for a tragedy, the act of publicly filing the charges could make her the most hated person alive.
Hippocrates is dubious. This guy can't guarantee that the information will be destroyed - you can't destroy information, and he can't promise for them. The silhouette says that he has their word that if he obeys them, that they'll destroy their copies and will never speak of it to anyone. Hippocrates continues to stall, while Max tries to figure out if there's any way to trace the signal with his tricorder. Unfortunately, all he can tell from here is that the screen and cameras are tied into the battlestation network - he'd have to hack into the system to try and figure out where they were being controlled.

The guy gets impatient. If he's not interested in the bargain, then they'll go with what they have now, and publish the information. His call. Fine. Hippocrates steps forward to the torpedo.

Ace notes (barely) that one of his tracking devices has vanished from his pocket. He steps out of the camera's blind spot, and tells Hippocrates that he can't go through with it, as Max tunnels back to the bridge with Akito.

"I thought we discussed 'alone'. You now have ten seconds." -silhouette
"If they break their word, Ace, it's your way." -Hippocrates
"No, if they break their word, it's my way. My way is noticably more violent than Ace's way." -Ciernan
Hippocrates gets in the torpedo casing, and promptly loses consciousness. Around this point, the mooks attack the conference, but are defeated by the other mooks led by Murdoch, plus the bonus Red security. Also about now, though, all the torpedoes start launching. Kathoom! Kathoom! Panic breaks out in the parking orbits as torpedoes head for various ships.

"Does Sam have ship range?" -Charles
"Yes, but it's radius, not targetted." -Mike
Max provides targetting information to the battlestation's bridge, to try to get them to grab torpedoes (including the one that Hippocrates is probably in, which is pretty well shielded but also has Max's bug and Ace's transponder in it). The battlestation goes into action grabbing things.

The combat trails to a halt, and Murdoch gets his guys to stand down - hey, they're heroes! They're totally confused, but follow his lead. Klothos wants to know who the hell is launching her torpedoes. Unfortunately, the best hacker on hand is Murdoch, who currently works for the party. She (with Ciernan's agreement) temporarily hires him at standard rates, to find out the identity of the parties unknown who attacked her. He swaps out the Hippocrates-crew hard drive for a new one for Klothos, and she provides him with some root codes for the station. With all of Murdoch's fortune and reliability, he tracks the control signal back to a router on the other side of the station.

Katya thinks that the people on the ship the Hippocrates-torpedo is heading for don't seem to be thinking "muah hah hah" but just "aaaaah! dodge the torpedo!" Meanwhile, the Outworlds ambassadors seem very confused about whether or not they should be storming out or fleeing or staying put, as many of them had the plan changed on them fairly late in the scheme of things.

The station tractor beams manages to grab a bunch of the torpedoes (including the Hippocrates-torpedo) before they hit anything, though five ships are still hit.

Max notes that while the torpedo hasn't done anything recently, a massive amount of data was sent from it a few minutes ago. Right, they downloaded him. Where did the transmission go? Max starts working on that - to the Omninet beacon, now already jumped to Riden. Their timing seems to have been precise.

Meanwhile, Katya has swooped to the conference room (with Ace and Deirdre), to make a dramatic entrance in front of Viktor. Viktor, having been briefed on the plan, dramatically declares that he is deputizing Katya, and those she designates, as special envoys of Red law enforcement. All the ambassador types are impressed. Well, that part of the plan seems to have worked.

Ciernan reminds Murdoch to try and get the email address that the download was sent to. And the conversation wasn't being run from Riden, that was somewhere local. Klothos agrees that Murdoch should keep working on it. The conversation also appears to have come from the transmitter, though that was, as Ciernan suspects, local. The small streams were omnidirectional broadcasts, which means they could have been picked up by any of the nearby ships.

"I calm down, because I roll 'no hard feelings, just business' on myself." -Ciernan
Of the ships that were in parking orbit, one is fleeing towards the Outworlds jump gate, and the other is fleeing towards the planet. Max thinks the latter is the groupmind ship. Unfortunately for it, 'battlestation' trumps 'ship', and it's promptly grabbed. So is the ship fleeing for the outworlds, for good measure.

As Red deputies, Katya's team (mostly led by Ciernan, now playing the Force of Swift and Terrible Vengeance) takes charge of things like the interrogation. The ship only has one person on board. Katya reports that it's Talia's father - he's sad that he'll be killed now, but he's glad that the Hippocrates crew has Talia. He's knocked out for later interrogation.

Ciernan sends off an email to Riden saying "track that email!"

Before everyone dashes off to Riden, the last hour or so of the conference finishes. Max uses his favor on Tigh to get him to switch his vote on jumpgates; everyone thinks it's a bad idea to have the outworlds start pestering Crux about getting their own keys to the jump gates, because then Crux will have to admit it was the Hippocrates.

A couple more favors get spent getting Ghier and Sam to come with the Hippocrates for a little while.

The final conference votes are:

Klothos, meanwhile, wants vengeance. They tried to kill all sorts of people here! Unfortunately, if Murdoch is going with the Hippocrates crew, they're only taking him if he's primarily working for them rather than her. She agrees, and Murdoch swaps his hard drives again. There go the root codes. Klothos says she'll get a report from Ciernan, and he knows what will please her and what will not. Murdoch agrees to take "vengeance for Klothos" as a side contract as permitted by the crew, and also charges her the good-guy rate of one aster for all of the hacking work. Getting the good guy rate is a new thing for her.

On the way to Riden, Katya mind-reams Talia's father. They cut him loose as expendable because the groupmind knows Talia is working with the Hippocrates now, and as a gesture of ironic good faith. Plus maybe it would get Talia to quit helping the Hippocrates.

Why do they want Acheron? Well, it's a very high level intelligence, and they think you can't have a better criminal tactical planner than Acheron. It'd be totally cool.

The Hippocrates camera logs were gotten by really good hackers who the groupmind hired and paid a lot of money to. For putting Acheron back together, though, they have a protocol written by Dr. Lal, so they can do it without outside help.

Sam tries to disable Talia's father's nanites - it works, but only while he's actively holding down the power. While he's in his right mind, Talia's dad tells them one more bit of information - the plan to get Hippocrates was devised by Deep Blue.

Uh oh.

But then, maybe that's not quite what it sounds like. Dylanna, who's still thinking about the Linnet data crystal, notes that there's a subtle pattern in the data (as mechaniced by "Read the first letter of each line"). The message in the Linnet crystal appears to be:

I don't know why they thought this plan would work. Obviously it would on a human, but it shouldn't be possible to manipulate you through such blatant emotional appeal. Anyway, I assume you've seen through their ploy but arranged to get the data crystals, so I've encoded these messages in a way that they won't spot. They are keeping the three AIs totally off the network, which means we only have a limited amount of communication and transient access to local topography. Mendel has become more withdrawn and uncommunicative over the course of his captures; DaVinci arrived only very recently, and appears strangely resilient to being completely divorced from inputs. The group mind has written off Xanadu as not recoverable, and I think they're planning to finish soon one way or another.
The Hidden Clues are:
They have moved several times so far, Deep Blue thinks in a hurry. <Dates of the times they moved>. The places that they move to do seem to have similar power requirements and such, so they may all have been arranged for in advance. This means that they won't have the Uber Fortress of Doom, but they do seem to spend several days making things ready.

The hardware being used for Acheron is a Manchu-Seven mainframe. It's been customized in the following way which should give it a fairly unique magnetic signature when it's on. It isn't always on, though.

DaVinci has been "listening" to the router times as email comes and goes. He suggests tuning your personal network buffer to double-precision, and "listening" to email traffic in major cities with a Pre of Tech roll. (Basically, the different ping times to the nearest other big hubs provides a sort of "constellation" that can identify a location, like a star arrangement can identify what system you're in.

There's a machine always on nearby that isn't networked at all. DaVinci thinks it's a powerful psi jammer.

There's a spread carrier wave inside the building that they all tap into. Deep Blue speculates that this lets them be particularly groupmind-effective inside the building.

Puttering: On Ship and Riden